The Ant and the Grasshopper: Work Ethic by Personality Type

The Ants and the Grasshopper is a didactic tale in Aesop’s Fables about the virtues of hard work and the perils of improvidence. Many of us heard this story as children and took it to heart, either identifying with the bustling little Ants or sympathizing with the carefree Grasshopper. It’s hard to say how this concept has affected us as adults, or if personality plays a role in how we see this age-old quandary. Is the population mostly made up of Ants or Grasshoppers? Or perhaps something in between?

To find out more, we went to the community and asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement “You finish all the tasks you need to get done before you allow yourself to relax.” Here’s what we found:

Most personality types were in agreement about not putting too much pressure on themselves when they have a task on their shoulders; most people feel that relaxing a bit is completely fine, even if we haven’t gotten everything done. Well, except for the Sentinels. Let’s take a look at why some personalities may be a bit lax (or extreme) with their work ethic.

Roles

Explorers (36% agreeing)

Explorers were the least likely Role group to care about finishing their work before relaxing. Explorer personality types prefer to live one day at a time, and tend to spontaneously pursue activities that promise fun or pleasure. They typically have no issue with setting aside their duties and chasing whatever catches their eye. To some, they may seem like the Grasshoppers of the world, but Explorers see it differently. An Explorer’s philosophy may go something like this: “Hey, we’re alive for only a moment – might as well enjoy it!”

In this Role group, Entertainers (ESFP) stick out, with 43% agreeing. It could be because the combination of their Extraverted and Feeling traits makes for people who are more conscious about how their lack of work affects others. As a result, Entertainers may be more reluctant to set aside their tasks to relax. These personalities also understand that they’re prone to procrastination, and if they do not go ahead and complete their work, it might not get done.

Diplomats and Analysts (46% and 48%)

Diplomats and Analysts were all but tied on the issue of work before play. Both Roles share the Intuitive trait, and this affects the way these personality types approach work and play (and life in general). Diplomats tend to examine their feelings, while Analysts consider the logic behind it all. That said, there are huge discrepancies within these two groups between those with the Prospecting trait and those with the Judging trait – a nearly 40% difference at its most extreme.

Logicians (INTP) and Mediators (INFP) disagreed adamantly, with only 32% and 30% agreeing, respectively. Their shared personality traits make for people who are reluctant to spread themselves too thin in the pursuit of work, who see taking a breather as a necessity. These two types prefer to work at their own pace specifically for this reason, and most Logicians and Mediators dislike a workplace with a rigid structure and deadlines. Just as they need time to recover from spending time with people, they also need time to recover from work, and will take the opportunity to spend a quiet evening with their comforts before tackling the project once more.

On the other side are those with the Judging trait, whose agreement far exceeded their Prospecting cousins. Judging personality types are inherently organized; they value clarity and structure. This can be particularly hard for Judging Analysts and Diplomats, because their minds are actively thinking up new and exciting things, which makes it difficult for these types to concentrate. Kudos to them for getting their work done!

Sentinels (73%)

Sentinels are definitely the Ants of the world, working hard now so they can enjoy the benefits later. The mixture of their Observant and Judging traits allows people with these personality types to not only plan accordingly, but to focus wholeheartedly on the task at hand. Once they have their claws into something, they’re not letting go until it’s finished.

More than three-quarters (77%) of Consuls (ESFJ) agreed that they would rather finish all their work before relaxing. These often selfless personalities work hard for themselves, but they also don’t like the idea of their lack of work ethic disrupting someone else. As far as Consuls are concerned, if they get their part done, then the next person in line can run things that much more smoothly.

Strategies

Overall, there isn’t a huge difference among the Strategies, though there are still some minor differences of opinions. Let’s take a closer look to see what’s going on.

Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (46% and 52% agreeing)

Constant Improvers were the least likely Strategy to agree that they finish their work before they play. This could be because these personality types need time to internally recharge, but also because they believe that they deserve a break. These types tend to be hard on themselves, and as a result, work really wears them down.

Social Engagers, much like their Introverted cousins, are also prone to thinking they deserve a rest. With that being said, a slim majority of Social Engagers agreed with the statement.

Confident Individualism and People Mastery (54% and 59%)

These two Assertive Strategies are more likely to get their work done before they relax, but only by a small margin. This could be because they have confidence that once they complete their work that there will be plenty of time to play later. People Masters are also able to handle large amounts of external stimuli, which may mean that work is less stressful for them than it is for other personality types.

Conclusions

There is certainly a personality component to whether or not we’re more inclined to finish our work before we relax. Some of us are very strict on ourselves and don’t even think about rest until the last bow has been tied on the project we’re doing. Others take a more carefree approach; the task will be finished eventually. Sentinel personality types are definitely the Ants of the world, but that doesn’t mean that the rest are Grasshoppers... well, not completely.

It’s important to note that some people may take the “work before play” directive too far, giving themselves only minimal time to take care of their most basic needs before going back to work. It’s a well-known fact that taking time to relax and recharge is necessary for one’s health and well-being, with numerous studies showing higher rates of physical and mental illnesses in people who overwork themselves. Personal relationships tend to suffer as well. All work and no play doesn’t just make Jack a dull boy, it can make him an unhealthy one as well. The key, as with many things, is balance; we must each find our own balance between finishing the tasks we need to do and giving ourselves some downtime.

What do you think? Do you keep going until everything is done? Or do you allow yourself a small break (or a few small breaks)? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, here. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

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